Transgender Runner Blazes Trail At Boston Marathon

Rob Hart
April 13, 2018 - 7:12 pm
Boston Marathon

Runners cross the finish line at the 2017 Boston Marathon. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A woman from Woodstock who's set to run the Boston Marathon has made her mark on the race, even before it starts.

Stevie Romer has been a competitive runner for years and says it's life-changing. 

"It's hard to describe," she told WBBM Newsradio. "But when you get done, you just feel like a different person. All the obstacles in your life seem so much smaller. It seriously helped me with my transgender issue."   

 

Well before she first presented herself in public as a woman, she knew she was different: "When I was four, I told my mom I wished I was a girl."    

As an adult and presenting as a man, Stevie married a woman and started a family, all while attending support group meetings and occasionally purchasing items of women's clothing, only to stow them away without wearing them.       

She publicly began her gender transition a couple of years ago, when she traveled six hours away to run in a charity 5-K race where everyone had to wear dresses.     

"It was just such a good feeling," she recalls, laughing. "Cheering, wearing a dress in public?"  

Romer said race organizers have always been supportive of her entry in races. But participants have been less welcoming, especially in shorter-distance races.     

"(Sometimes) I come in second, third, and that's when I run into tension from the person who finished (behind me)," she says. "So I just stopped signing up for races because I don't want to cause bad feelings."

Instead, she goes out of town to run and qualified for the Boston Marathon by running a race in Marquette, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"It was pretty cold," she recalls.    

When she qualified for Boston, a website dedicated to verifying runners' times asked about her gender identity and said it's unfair for her to register as a woman.

After she shared her story -- from her divorce and estrangement from her children to the gender-shaming she'd experienced at other races -- she heard back from the person who runs the website.

"He said 'I changed my mind,'" she recalls. "'It's fair for you and other transgender people to run the Boston Marathon, and in fact I'm in contact with Boston.'”

After that, the Marathon issued its statement allowing transgender runners to register with the gender that matches how they live publicly.  

On Monday, Romer will be one of three trans women running in the Boston Marathon, which was the first competitive road race to allow a woman to register and run back in the 60s. That significance is not lost on her.     

"If there's one place I can run as transgender, as myself," she says, "it's gonna be Boston."